Student Life endorses Antonio French for mayor of St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis has long been criticized for its complex relationship with the latter part of its name. Technically speaking, the University straddles the border between the city and the surrounding county, with virtually all of the Danforth Campus falling within Clayton or University City limits.

It’s true that many students, staff and faculty may not be residents of St. Louis City proper and thus are unable to cast a vote in the upcoming mayoral election. But it is also true that Wash. U. is inextricably linked to the city it calls home—and not just the relatively affluent ‘central corridor’ it inhabits. The future of St. Louis, and of our University community, depends on our city’s commitment to breaking down the racial and economic boundaries that have so fractured it. The editorial board sees only one mayoral candidate both devoted to this cause and armed with the attitude to accomplish it: Antonio French.

In the view of the board, French, who currently serves as Alderman of the city’s 21st Ward, is a candidate who will focus on improving St. Louis for all of its residents—especially those who live outside the city’s most-developed swath of land, known as the central corridor. Although all of Wash. U.’s campuses sit squarely within the corridor, and the idea of even more development projects in places like the Central West End may sound appealing to students, a city in which all residents have equal access to resources that let them live and thrive is the kind of city that will ultimately be best for the Wash. U. community.

It’s clear that in order for this to happen, St. Louis will need radical change—more than current Democratic frontrunner Lyda Krewson is willing to make. St. Louis is going to need to take risks—calculated steps, but radical and potentially uncomfortable changes nonetheless. French faces these decisions without flinching. He has boldly announced his intention to replace the city’s Chief of Police through a nationwide search, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to building a police force that works for its constituents, regardless of a deeply entrenched status quo. He has also promised that if he does not reduce violent crime rates in the city by the end of his four-year term, he will not run for re-election, period.

The board is particularly impressed by this kind of commitment to accountability. French has also proposed the idea of a regular ‘report card’ system for his administration, in which every six months, constituents are given the opportunity to evaluate how well French has met his outlined goals in a variety of spheres, including crime, education, jobs and racial equity. The idea is an unusual one—it is certainly unusual for a candidate to openly welcome criticism from his constituents—but St. Louis needs unusual.

These kinds of promises are big, of course, but French has already demonstrated that he’s willing to walk the walk. For years, he has been setting an example for what engaged citizenship can look like on a day-to-day basis. He doesn’t just talk to his constituents, he walks alongside them: literally, as the world watched his live coverage from the front lines of the Ferguson protests, and in his work at his community education initiative, North Campus. When Student Life reached out to St. Louis mayoral candidates earlier this semester as part of Forum’s election coverage, Antonio French was the only candidate to respond, taking the time to talk with a writer to discuss his visions for the city.

Recent polls suggest that French is still somewhat of an underdog heading into the primaries on Tuesday. But we believe that the endorsement of the editorial board should not merely be swayed by what poll numbers are saying. It should reflect what is truly in the best interest for all of the students and staff of Washington University in St. Louis. It is for this reason that the Student Life editorial board endorses Antonio French for the office of mayor of St. Louis.